Cecil-Norman Family Papers, 1858-1943

Held by The Filson Historical Society

Creator:  Cecil-Norman family

Title:  Papers, 1858-1943

Rights: For information regarding literary and copyright interest for these papers, contact the Curator of Special Collections.

Size of Collection:  0.33 cubic feet

Location Number:  Mss A C388

Scope and Content Note

This collection of letters and documents reflects the professional pursuits and family life of the Cecil, Norman, and Van Dyke families of Louisville and Spencer County, Kentucky.

The bulk of the collection consists of typed transcripts of 34 letters from Dr. John Giles Cecil (1855-1913) of Louisville, Ky. to his wife, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Robinson Cecil (1855-1932) during his 1893 European tour (folder 1). Dr. Cecil describes in detail his visits to the leading medical treatment facilities for women and his meetings with the foremost gynecologists and obstetricians of Europe. Among those he sought out were Dr. Christian Billroth (1829-1894), the father of modern abdominal surgery, Max Saenger (1853-1903), who modernized the Caesarean section procedure, and Dr. Thomas Spencer Wills (1818-1897), the household surgeon for Queen Victoria and the British Royal family.  Dr. Cecil witnessed numerous surgical procedures which he describes at length.

Dr. Cecil also describes the people and sights of the great cities he visited in England, Ireland, Scotland, France, modern day Germany, Austria and modern day Czechoslovakia. In letters written during his voyage across the Atlantic, he makes frequent references to the “High Priestess” of Theosophy, Annie Besant (1847-1933) and her colorful traveling companion, the Hindu scholar, Gyanendra Nath Chakraverti (1861-1936).  He also penned an unflattering description of the British royal family he observed in London – the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), the Duke of York (the future King George V) and the latter’s wife, the future Queen Mary. Other letters include his criticism of dueling in Germany and a brief description of an anarchist bomb attack in Paris.

The collection also includes 7 letters from Mary Robinson Cecil Norman (1883-1964) to her father during his travels abroad, along with 1932 correspondence between Mary Norman and her sister, Martha Cecil Wilson (1888-1975) regarding the division of their late mother’s personal and household property (folder 2).

Correspondence in folder 3 is varied.  Items include letters from Martha “Mattie” Robinson Young (1846-1891), the wife of prominent Louisville attorney and Confederate veteran, Bennett H. Young, describing Dr. Cecil’s marriage to her sister Lizzie in 1882 and her 1891 visit to Philadelphia. Other items include 1891 Christmas greetings from the George Louis Everbach (1855-1929) family of Louisville to Solomon R. Norman (1823-1897) and Lucinda VanDyke Norman (1828-1912) of Spencer County, Ky., the grandparents of Jonathan V. Norman. Also included is a letter dated 7 May (1897) from Mary “Mollie” Johnston Van Dyke (1832-1920) to her sister-in-law, Lucinda Van Dyke Norman in which she expresses her sympathies for the recent loss of her husband, Solomon. A 1932 letter from Martha Cecil Wilson to her daughter Elizabeth Cecil Wilson (1913-1994) describes fellow American missionaries and their activities at Mokausan, China. Separate items included an 1858 letter written by Rev. Thomas Grubbs Gooch (1800-1874) of Logan County, Ky. in which he discusses family and farm news, and a 1871 New Years greeting card. In a 1943 letter to Wendell L. Willkie, who was seeking the Republican nomination in the 1944 presidential election, Arthur Judson (1871-1951), the father-in-law of Jonathan VanDyke Norman, Jr. (1905-1987), comments at length on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s domestic and war policies. He offers suggestions regarding party strategy and predicts that the 1944 election will be the Republican’s “greatest test since the Civil War.”

Oversized folder 4 contains Dr. Cecil’s 1880 certificate of admission to the staff of the Louisville City Hospital.

Also present are two draft speeches (ca. 1920, 1924) by Jonathan VanDyke Norman (1877-1952), a Louisville attorney who married Mary R. Cecil. These speeches focus on the Southern hardwood timber industry and inter-state commerce. Notably, he comments at length on the “Red Scare” of 1919-20 in his 1920 speech (folder 5).


Biographical Note

Born in Monticello, Ky., Dr. John Giles Cecil (1855-1913) was the son of Russell H. Cecil (1815-1890) and Lucy Ann Phillips (1828-1913). After graduating from Princeton in 1876, he continued his professional education in Louisville before matriculating at the University of Berlin. After his return to Louisville from Europe he married Elizabeth “Lizzie” Robinson (1855-1932), the daughter of Rev. Stuart Robinson (1814-1881) and Mary E. Brigham (1823-1909). In addition to pursuing his medical practice, Dr. Cecil also served as professor of medicine at the University of Louisville and in 1907 was elected president of the Kentucky Medical Association. An elder in the Second Presbyterian Church, Cecil also served as president of the Louisville branch of the Y.M.C.A.

Martha Cecil Wilson (1888-1975), the daughter of Dr. John G. and “Lizzie” Robinson Cecil married Rev. James Morrison Wilson (1885-1949). They were American missionaries near Shanghai from 1912 to 1941, when Martha and their children left for America at the outbreak of World War II.  Rev. Wilson remained behind and spent over a year in a Japanese prison camp.

Another daughter, Mary Robinson Cecil (1883-1964) married Jonathan VanDyke Norman (1877-1952). A Louisville attorney, he served as legal counsel for the Southern Hardwood Traffic Association, a lumber shipping firm headquartered in Memphis, Tenn. He was the son of Abner Ernest Norman (1850-1922), a U.S. Land Office surveyor for whom Norman, Oklahoma was named and Katherine Berry (1850-1927). He was the grandson of Solomon R. Norman (1823-1897) and Lucinda VanDyke Norman (1828-1912) of Spencer County, Ky.  Mary A. “Molly” Johnston (1832-1920) married Jonathan G. VanDyke (1825-1893), the brother of Lucinda VanDyke Norman.

The son of Frederick Judson and Alice Barber, Arthur Judson (1871-1951) was born in Bloomington, New Jersey. An educator, advertising executive and gentleman farmer, Judson, who graduated from Yale University in 1894, was retired at the time he wrote Republican presidential hopeful Wendell Willkie in 1943 (item in folder 3). He and his wife Gertrude Fuller relocated from Florida to Louisville after 1940 and both are buried in Cave Hill Cemetery. Their daughter Alice Barber Judson (1906-1982) was the wife of Jonathan VanDyke Norman, Jr. (1905-1987).

While his connection with the Cecil Norman family is unclear, Thomas Grubbs Gooch (1800-1874) was the son of Thomas Gooch (c1750-1815) and Lucy Grubbs (c1740-c1848) of Shelby County, Ky. A pioneer minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church he settled in Logan County, Ky. in 1821. Forced to leave Kentucky for his Confederate sympathies he returned to Logan County after the Civil War where he remained a respected member of the community until his death.

Folder List

Folder 1:          John G. Cecil Correspondence [typescripts], 1893

Folder 2:          Mary R. Cecil Norman Correspondence, 1893, 1932

Folder 3:           Correspondence, 1858-1943

Folder 4 ovsz:          John G. Cecil Louisville Hospital Certificate of Admission, 1880

Folder 5:          J.V. Norman Speeches, ca. 1920, 1924


Subject Headings

Anarchists – France

Anticommunist movements – United States

Bantock, George Granville, 1837-1913

Beere, Fanny Mary Bernard, 1856-1915

Besant, Annie, 1847-1933

Billroth, Christian Albert Theodor, 1829-1894

Blain, John Mercer, 1869-1932

Bruce, Barbara, 1852-1934

Cameron, Murdoch, ca. 1847-1930

Cecil, Elizabeth Robinson, 1855-1932

Cecil, John Giles, 1855-1913

Chakravarti, Gyanendra Nath, 1861-1936

Cullingsworth, Charles James, 1841-1908

Dublin (Ireland) – Description and travel

Dueling – Germany

Edinburgh (Scotland) – Description and travel

Edward VII, King of Great Britain, 1841-1910

Everbach family

Freund, Wilhelm Alexander, 1833-1917

Galaban, Alfred Lewis, 1843-1913

Generative organs, Female – Surgery

George V, King of Great Britain, 1865-1936

Germany – Description and travel

Gooch, Thomas Grubbs, 1800-1874

Great Britain – Description and travel

Gynecology – Practice

Hardwood industry

Hemphill, Charles Robert, 1852-1932

Interstate commerce – Law and legislation – United States

Leopold, Christian Gerhard, 1846-1911

London (England) – Description and travel

Lucas, Ida M., ca. 1847-1893

MacCormac, Sir William, 1836-1901

MacEwen, Sir William, 1848-1924

Mary, Queen, consort of George V, King of Great Britain, 1867-1953

Missions, American – China

New Deal, 1933-1939

New Year cards

Norman family

Norman, J. V. (Jonathan Van Dyke), 1877-1952


Obstetrics – Surgery

Paris (France) – Description and travel

Paris (Steamship)

Parker, Joseph, 1830-1902

Physicians – Certification

Prague (Czech Republic) – Description and travel

Rennie family

Republican Party (U.S. : 1854-)

Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945

Rotunda Hospital (Dublin, Ireland)

Saenger, Max, 1853-1903


Tilford, Henry, ca. 1845-1893

Tyler, Sir George, 1837-1897

United States. Interstate Commerce Commission

University of Edinburgh

University of Prague

Van Dyke family

Vienna (Austria) – Description and travel


Wilkie, Wendell L. (Wendell Lewis), 1892-1944

Wills, Thomas Spencer, 1818-1897

Wilson, Martha Cecil, 1888-1975

Winckel, F. (Franz), 1837-1912

Women’s hospitals – Germany – Berlin

Women’s hospitals – Germany – Leipzig

World War, 1939-1945

World’s Colombian Exposition (1893: Chicago, Ill.)

Young, Martha Robinson, 1846-1891